Paperbacks: Rise and Shine<br/>Hush Little Baby<br/>Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction<br/>The Messenger of Athens<br/>Leonard Woolf<br/>Tuk Tuk to the Road<br/>The Goddess Guide

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The Independent Culture

Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen (Arrow £7.99)

The hazards of the open mic broadcast are well-known to both presidents and presenters. For television anchor Meghan Fitzmaurice, the heroine of Anna Quindlen's fifth novel, the problems begin when she signs off a live television interview with an internet mogul with the fatal words: "Fucking asshole". The reasons behind this on-air gaffe lie at the heart of this readable drama. Our guide to events, and the novel's narrator, is Meghan's younger sister, Bridget. A social worker in the Bronx, Bridget could not inhabit a more different world. It's through her gently critical eyes that we learn about Meghan's Upper Eastside lifestyle – her early-morning workouts, hair maintenance rituals and failing marriage. The key to Meghan's breakdown lies in the sisters' chequered childhood. The two meet up in a Jamaican resort to confront the past and hash out old grievances. Quindlen, a journalist at the New York Times and now Newsweek, writes with a columnist's appreciation of extremes. Good at capturing the different flavours of New York's neighbourhoods, the novel contrasts the lives of two different sisters and their attempts to carve out meaningful futures in a city where you're only as good as your last pay cheque. The conclusion, as you might expect, does not find in favour of glamour and material success. EH

Hush Little Baby, by Katharine Davies (Vintage £6.99)

Davies's debut novel, The Madness of Love, a dreamy re-telling of the Twelfth Night story, won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2005. Her second novel is no less singular in tone and content. As a young girl, Eira delivers her older sister's dead baby. Twenty years later, and now working at a municipal museum, she discovers an infant abandoned on the

museum's steps. Moving between past and present, town and country, Davies's narrative dips into moments of contrived confusion. However, the poetic and quasi-sinister charms of her writing cancel out more mundane quibbles about time and place. EH

Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction, by Alison Macleod (Penguin £8.99)

Modern physics and medieval philosophy were cornerstones of Macleod's novel, The Wave Theory of Angels. This short fiction collection explores the more muddled imperatives of desire. Set in London, Brighton and Nova Scotia, the stories feature women in charge. In "Live Wire" a 19-year-old girl finds herself drawn to an unconscious stranger; in "Dirty Weekend", a middle-aged woman goes on a final mini-break with her dying lover. The collection's most arresting entry, "The Knowledge of Penises", describes a woman's encounter with a flasher and a lifelong acquaintance with surprising erections. EH

The Messenger of Athens, by Anne Zouroudi (Bloomsbury £10.99)

When Irina Asimakopoulos's body is retrieved from the foot of a desolate cliff, the police chief of the Aegean island of Thiminos declares her death accidental. An enigmatic stranger from Athens, known as "the fat man", arrives to overturn the verdict - though on whose authority he operates is unclear. Largely set in winter, this powerfully atmospheric mystery embraces Mediterranean passion, mythic meddling and patriarchal persecution. First-time novelist Anne Zouroudi - who was raised in Sheffield, not Santorini – proves a natural at the dark arts of writing Euro-crime. EH

Leonard Woolf, by Victoria Glendinning (Pocket £9.99)

As sympathetic, far-sighted and wide-ranging as its subject, this tremendous biography brings a "dark star" out of the shadow cast by his wife Virginia – whose work, far from impeding, his loving care made possible. Glendinning travels beyond Bloomsbury to show Leonard, vividly, in colonial Ceylon, as radical journalist and publisher, and as a leading Labour Party light for half a century. She shines in all his many worlds: the Edwardian-aesthete pal of Lytton Strachey also gave Denis Healey a big break. Strikingly, she depicts a heroically good man who, for all his pride in a Jewish heritage, lived and died free of supernatural faith and an enemy to the "absurd delusions" of religion. BT

Tuk Tuk to the Road, by Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent & Jo Huxster (Friday books £8.99)

The tuk-tuk is the ubiquitous Asian scooter with a shell that gives a new dimension to near-death experiences. This endearing blog-based journal follows a 12,500-mile trip from Bangkok to Brighton in a pink auto-rickshaw to raise funds (aptly, tuk-tuk users may think) for mental-health charity Mind. A good cause; a fun book; and don't haggle over the fare this time. BT

The Goddess Guide, by Gisèle Scanlon (Harpercollins £10)

Written in a style more loqacious than chatty, this is a "style bible" for Jackie readers who never grew up. Full of "Yikes!" and "Yeuch!" and "Do you love chocolate? I do!", it is not so much goddess as cute ickle fairy. While there are some handy tips about cleaning shoes and buying designer handbags, this is too girly for words - and would you take style advice from someone who says, "Seriously, tights are great, aren't they" KG

To order these books call: 0870 079 8897

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